Sunday, February 28, 2021 2:00 pm
By Dare Babarinsa
Ibadan is an intriguing city. It is one of the most modern of Yoruba cities but some part of it look as ancient as Ile-Ife, the land of the First Dawn. Indeed, some journalists having read Ibadan by – a running splash of rust and gold, flung and scattered among seven hills like broken china in the sun – often refer to the city as ancient. You are ensnared by the city’s languor, its mesmerizing somnolence and its timeless placidity. But it has its temper; bursting occasionally like a volcano, sprouting its hot lava and then going back to sleep again until the next time when its belly would regurgitate another hot lava.
Ibadan was one of the new cities built by the Yoruba in the wake of the major challenges posed by the collapse of the old Oyo Empire. It was the only city without a city wall among the principal towns of Yorubaland. Its outline districts were acquired by force of arms. Today, it has absorbed many old settlements, including the Egba village of Odo Ona, the Owu town of Ijaye and many other towns. It is still a town in continuous expansion even now and its outlaying arms continues to gobble up new territories into its megalopolis.
Part of the city is an outlaying village called Shasha. It has a substantial non-native population made up mostly of Hausa from the north-western part of Nigeria. They are mostly kolanut traders. Some of them have been living in the town for generations and they now claim to be natives. But the natives Yoruba know themselves. The Hausa, despite their long sojourn in Yorubaland, still bear Hausa or Arabic names (most of them are Muslims). Two weeks ago, the old divide of Nigeria intervened and Shasha erupted into violence and mayhem. A minor disagreement between two persons degenerated into violence. Lives were lost and a cloud of uncertainty darkens the future of Shasha.
It is the burden of Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State to find peace for the people of the state, especially Shasha. He has taken measures that have restored peace, if not justice, and he has shown his traducers that he has teeth. I often wonder whether his measures could delay or even stop totally the next eruption of the volcano and restore Ibadan and their outlaying district to it’s accustomed peace.
One major factor in the determination of peace in recent months has been the emergence of the Fulani herdsman. Until in recent years, the Fulani herdsman was not a factor in the security consideration of Yorubaland. Now he is the factor. He is considered to be the major cause of violent crimes in the South-West, especially the crimes of kidnapping and robbery. Now there is a fall-out on citizens from the North-West who are mostly Hausa and who have been living peacefully in Yorubaland for generations. Some people do not know the difference between the Hausa and the Fulani. They think there is a hybrid of people called Hausa-Fulani.
It is clear now that the game has changed and Governor Makinde and his colleagues have to devise means to identify and isolate the violent Fulani herdsmen and their mostly Yoruba collaborators. He has to mobilise the appropriate traditional authority to deal with each village and town so that peace can be restored. In the case of Shasha, the appropriate authority is the Olubadan, the paramount ruler of Ibadan and its outlaying districts. It is anomalous and disrespectful to continue to treat the Seriki Shasha (the head of Hausa community living in Shasha village) as if he is an autonomous traditional ruler. It is almost laughable if not for its tragic connotation.
In order to reduce the threat of famine, the government should create temporary grazing zones for the herders so that farmers can plant their crops without the fear of being attacked and their crops uprooted. The herdsmen should be moved out fully from Oke-Ogun where clashes have been bloody and protracted. Temporary grazing zone should be created immediately for not more than one-year tenure. The government should then proceed to encourage entrepreneurs who may want to have proper ranches. It is interesting to learn that most of the cattle in the care of Fulani herders are actually owned by Oyo State indigenes and entrepreneurs from other places.
The violence and mayhem make one to fear that Yorubaland is already infiltrated by Boko Haram and ISIS elements. The Miyetti Allah organization, the main open backers of the suspected Fulani terrorists, has been silent about the possibility of these infiltrations. The organization did not see that these suspected criminals are actually enemies of the normal Fulani herders who are only out to make a living. The old way however can no longer hold. The incendiary intervention of the armed Fulani herdsmen, with their cocktails of kidnapping and murder, has changed the game forever.
Governor Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State, in a reaction to the backlash against the Fulani herders, said that the herders have the right to arm themselves in hostile territories. He did not ask himself the question why herding was a peaceful vocation in the past both for the herders and the farmers? What has changed? Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State fired back, stating that Mohammed’s outrageous remark could only mean that every Nigerian should acquire the right to carry arms and defend himself. “I think he should apologize to Nigerians, particularly those of us who have been affected by herdsmen’s atrocities,” said Ortom.
But it is Ortom’s conclusion that throws light on the great divide among the ruling elite in Nigeria on the handling of the suspected Fulani terrorists. “But if he (Mohammed) continues, we will be forced to believe that he is part of the terrorists or one of those sponsoring banditry in the country,” said Ortom. “We are not against the Fulani living in Benue, but against terrorists Fulani group.”
This is also the problem of Oyo State. Governor Makinde should be ready to expend but state’s governmental and traditional resources to identify and isolate suspected terrorists in the state. It is no use being soft when some enemies are trying to put fire on your roof top. We should learn that this is not a trend that can be handled gently or with kid gloves. General Tukur Yusuf Buratai, the former Chief of Army Staff, said before the Senate during his confirmation hearing that the crisis may persist for the next 20 years. Such shameful confession should have guaranteed his rejection in the Senate, but may be it is better he does on exile.
At last there is now an alternative to the military or so it seems! Someone may soon suggest Sheik Ahmad Abubakar Gumi for the important post of Minister of Defence. He is getting results where the military have failed. With him in charge of that important ministry, we would know what we are paying for. He may also be able to lead home, Lear Sharibu, the brave girl who has been held captive by the Boko Haram terrorist group for the past three years.
Mr Babarinsa, journalist, is the publisher of Gaskiya magazine and a columnist with The Guardian.